Laya and her ribbon

Laya is a beautiful four years old Burmese cat. One Monday night about 10pm, she was happily playing with a ribbon whilst her owner, Tracey watched on. Tracey saw Laya had the ribbon in her mouth, then it started disappearing down her throat until the whole ribbon had been swallowed. Now what to do? Was the ribbon likely to cause a problem?

The ribbon was about 20cm in length, therefore there was a reasonable chance it would get stuck and the major problem with linear-shaped foreign bodies is that they can gather up in the intestines as they move through, thereby affecting a much greater length of the intestinal tract than the actual ribbon or foreign object. The worst case scenario for such a situation is surgical removal of a large length of damaged intestine, therefore early diagnosis and intervention is important.

Laya was brought in to us the following morning. On examination she was bright and happy and did not show signs of abdominal pain. The ribbon did not appear to be causing a problem at this stage, but given the likelihood it would get stuck, x-rays were taken. Barium contrast was given to highlight the ribbon so that its progress through the intestinal tract could be monitored. This involved taking repeat x- rays over a 24-48 hour period.

At 35 hours post ingesting the ribbon, the ribbon could be seen in the small intestine, and most of the barium had moved further through to the large intestine. There was a concern that the ribbon had been left behind and would not make it through. Laya was still bright and comfortable, albeit a bit stressed in hospital therefore not eating or toileting well. Her owner decided to take her home for the night so that she would relax and hopefully use her bowels.

The following morning Laya was brought back to us for another x-ray. She had been happy at home the previous night, and had eaten and passed a small amount of faeces. The x-ray showed that some barium and faeces had continued to move along the intestinal tract at a much slower rate than expected. Interestingly, the ribbon was no longer visible. It was still in there somewhere but we could not locate it. There was concern that it could be stuck and causing damage because it really should have been passed out (in faeces) by now. We considered giving Laya anaesthetic and placing an endoscope in her colon to see if the ribbon was on the way out, and if it was not then surgery would be required to retrieve it. As Laya was still happy and comfortable, her owner decided to give her one more night at home. When Laya got home, she ran straight outside to the garden to toilet and passed the ribbon. Phew! What a relief! No more worries and Laya has been fine ever since.